• 26Sep

    Home Sweet Gated Apartment Building

    So here we are in Mount Frere, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Here are some first impressions:

    • Though at first we were hesitant to live in a gated apartment building, we are now quite relieved. The parking is on a first come first served basis—we usually grab a space under the portal, but the other day we got in late, and just nestled the car right inside the gate, near the road. An hour later one of our neighbors came knocking and suggested we move the car further into the complex, because ‘naughty boys’ might throw rocks at the car since it was so close to the gate. Now we park as far from the gate as possible.
    Our apartment building in Mount Frere
    Our apartment building in Mount Frere
    • There’s a scrapyard across the street from our flat. It’s better than TV.


    • Everything runs on ‘African time’—up to 3 hours late, or not at all.
    • Don’t ask for tea, because it’s boiled milk and Nescafe or a tea bag. Water does not figure in.
    • The handshake: First a regular handshake; switch into an upward hand clasp (if that makes sense); then down for another regular handshake.
    • We’ve been to the SHOPRITE several times, and have found most of the necessities: eggs, cheddar & feta cheeses, Bran flakes, soy milk, cabbage, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, pasta, even veggie burgers! Andy and I are wondering if it’s because of the Pakistani/halal community, because no one else seems to have any problem with massive meat consumption. For example, check out this grocery store:
    The Eat Sum Meat grocery store

    The 'Eat Sum Meat' grocery store

    • The electricity goes out constantly. I’ve been putting off writing a report at the office all week because the power has been out for 4 days straight. We have electricity at home, but that goes out too. We finally bought candles, and we try to make the best of it (and the cold cheese sandwiches we’re relegated to).
    • In addition to the power going out, so does the water.
    • I’m only just starting to get used to some of the looks we’re getting. The most common look is: “Do those white people know they’re in Mount Frere? I think they took the wrong exit.”
    • The street is always bustling. Here are a few examples of what you might see:
    Chickens sold on every corner.

    Chickens sold on every corner.

    Hungry? Why not buy a sheep! Only R1200.

    Hungry? Why not buy a sheep! Only R1200.

    KFC, as promised.

    KFC, as promised.

    Medicinal herbs for sale.

    Medicinal herbs for sale.

    Cape Hair Salon, located in a container. Maybe I'll get my hair did!

    Cape Hair Salon, located in a container. Maybe I'll get my hair did!

    • Everyone is exceedingly nice. Every time we say hello in Xhosa (molo or molweni), or thank you (enkosi), they look at us like we’re their first born learning how to walk. Such love! It has really helped the transition to Mount Frere, and our work with ASAP and the Hlomelikusasa office.
    • Oh, and let me not forget to mention the rats! Well, the only evidence I have is the poop (Andy and I bought some caulk to seal the ceiling so the rat pooh can’t drop onto our heads at night), but we also hear them running in theĀ  ceiling. I’m still not convinced it’s rats–they sound more like 15 pound dogs running full tilt across the roof. Oh, how I wish it was dogs and not rats…
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11 Responses to “Home Sweet Gated Apartment Building”

  1. India Says:

    great pics! I love ‘eat sum meat’!!
    Looks like there’s never a dull moment…except for when there is – can’t wait to hear what happens next at the scrapyard!
    Oh, and the Cape Hair Salon makes Donna’s Hair Shed look like Elizabeth Arden!

  2. CountryGirlCityLife Says:

    I love it all, I love that there is a huge place called eat sum meat, yet luckily you can still find veggie burgers. I don’t know how I feel abour rat droppings or the electricity outage but at least your place looks pretty live-able from the outside, because honestly I thought you were going to be staying in one of those containers. I can’t wait to hear about all your work you are doing there and endeavors.

  3. Seraphine Says:

    i’g glad you are living in a gated flat but where is the landscaping? you know, trees and grass and flowers? because from looking at the pictures, i’d feel a little intimidated there. the nice thing is it sounds like people are looking after you. and the more times you say molo or enkosi, the more friends you’ll make and the more people will look after you. being part of the community engages the heart and soul, which is more reliable than first impressions and fear. i think you’re awesome alex. hugs.
    ps. i love the photos. the medicine herbs are interesting. i’d love talking with that merchant and learning about those.

  4. Dad Says:

    Maybe you could buy a sheep and put it in the overhead to take on whatever it is that’s up there. And there really is a KFC! I thought that existed only in the figment of my photoshop! Does “molo” or “molweni” depend on whether you’re addressing aman or a woman?

  5. Molly Gray Says:




  6. Seraphine Says:

    i bet the hair salon gets hot
    during the day. it would be
    hard to do someone’s hair there.

  7. Alex Says:

    The rats are loud tonight! Scary.
    FYI: “molo” is “hi” to one person, and “molweni” is “hi” to more than one. Thanks for the comments, peeps! They make me happy.

  8. Greg Says:

    I love me some KFC :)

  9. Val Says:

    Love the info here along with the pics and so pleased to see the outside of where you are. It looks much more habitable than we originally imagined and you can live with some electricity outage but 4 days must have been hard.
    Look forward to more language lessons!!

    love to you both.


  10. Marte Says:

    Molo Alex! Unjani? I’m been meaning to contact you, saw you left a comment on my page! I’m so jealous of you beeing in Mt. Frere. I hope you are enjyoing it, it is a crazy town I know:) I love your pictures, but I didn’t know there was a gated apartment building there. Where is it situated? I stayed with a local family on top in “Lubacweni” area. my view was pretty much the same as your tho:)
    anywyas, i wish you all the best and good luck with your project!!

    Sharp sharp sisi!
    Marte/ Nolitha :)

  11. Steve Wheadon Says:

    Hi A & A!

    Mount Frere sounds amazing! I love meat and colloquial spelling so Eat Sum Meat could possibly be my favourite shop on earth! I can’t belive there’s a KFC there! At least the chicken they use is probably real chicken as opposed to whatever wierd re-constituted “meat product” they use over here!.

    Send me your address so I can send you some snail mail.